As the SUNY campuses reopened to students throughout the course of the last few weeks, a unique challenge has been safely resuming and managing collegiate athletic activities. Although fall sports have been postponed at every institution, returning athletes to campus and allowing them to practice has been a priority.
At Binghamton University, outdoor in-person practices, albeit in smaller groups, began last week. At this point, no cases or outbreaks have been reported among BU student-athletes or teams.
Other SUNY campuses, however, have not had the same luck. In total, five institutions have encountered issues that resulted in the cancellation of some athletics activities, and in some cases the suspension of all activities for the remainder of the semester.
Among New York’s four Division I schools, only the University at Albany has encountered major issues. On Sept. 11, the Albany athletics director Mark Benson announced that all athletics activities were suspended indefinitely following a “cluster” of positive cases within the student-athlete population. Practices for Binghamton’s America East rival remain suspended as cases among the general student body are still rising.
Among SUNY’s Division III schools, four schools have either temporarily or permanently canceled this semester’s athletics activities. SUNY Brockport has been the latest school to encounter problems with its student-athletes.
Last week, Brockport suspended its wrestling and men’s soccer programs due to separate coronavirus policy violations. The varsity wrestling program and wrestling physical education classes reportedly violated social distancing and face covering policies on campus. The men’s soccer team were a part of a gathering of more than 50 people that did not take appropriate precautions.
Earlier in the month, SUNY Cortland canceled all athletics indefinitely due to rising cases among the general student body on campus. Two other SUNY campuses, Oswego and Oneonta, have both shut down athletics for the remainder of the semester. Both of those decisions can be attributed to the current state of the campus as a whole.
Oneonta’s start to the semester was marred by a flawed reopening process that has developed into the largest outbreak of any school in New York. With the campus getting shut down in the first week of September, the situation inevitably affected athletics programs.
After crossing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandated threshold of 100 cases last week, Oswego halted in-person for a minimum of two weeks. Suspending athletics and Greek life was a byproduct of the college’s attempt to keep the campus open for the remainder of the semester.
As all of the SUNY campuses look to resume athletic activities as soon as possible, they will largely be dependent on their conferences to figure out a start date. For the Division I schools, Binghamton, Albany and Stony Brook are all members of the America East, which hopes to begin basketball season after students leave for the Thanksgiving break and play fall sports in the spring.
For the University at Buffalo, the only public Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school in the state, the Mid-American Conference is currently assessing whether or not to resume football activities this semester. If they resume, Buffalo will be the first SUNY institution to resume intercollegiate athletics.
The remainder of the athletic programs in SUNY participate in Division III, and they will await decisions by the State University of New York Athletics Conference (SUNYAC) and other leagues to determine their return-to-play strategy.